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Perimeter Institute’s ISSYP: Our Review

If you love physics, then there are great programs for you to choose from. One, in particular, that stands out is Perimeter Institute’s ISSYP.


What is Perimeter Institute’s ISSYP?

Perimeter Institute's ISSYP (International Summer School for Young Physicists) is a prestigious program designed to provide high school students with an immersive experience in theoretical physics.

The two-week-long program is hosted online by the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and boasts 900 alumni across 60 countries from over the last 20 years. The program is designed to offer the opportunity for high school students interested in theoretical physics to pursue physics research at the university level.


Who is eligible? What are the program dates?

There are five eligibility requirements:

  1. Students must have a passion for and strong ability in physics and mathematics, as reflected in high school course grades and extracurricular activities.

  2. Students must intend to pursue physics at the university level in the future.

  3. At the time of application, students must be in either Grade 11 or 12.

  4. At the time of ISSYP 2023, students must have completed Grade 11 physics (or international equivalent).

  5. Students must be fluent in speaking, reading, and writing in English as the entire program is conducted in English.

What are the application timelines?

December 2, 2022 - Applications open.

March 16, 2023 - The application deadline is 11:59 PM ET

April 21, 2023 - Selected students will receive email invitations to participate

​​July 17-28, 2023 - Online program in session


What is the application process?

There is no application fee and the online application process requires you to write essays, get a teacher assessment, recommendation letter and share your transcripts (in addition to some personal information)


How much does it cost?

The program’s fee is CAD 250 which is about USD 185 and is payable upon acceptance. Students will also receive a small package of supplies at their home address before the program begins. No additional material or equipment fees are anticipated, though students may need to gather some common household items for hands-on activities.

Financial Aid is available upon request by accepted students.


Pros and cons of ISSYP

Pros:

1. You will have an immersive experience in theoretical physics

ISSYP’s two weeks are filled with mini-courses, short sessions in which students are provided with sound conceptual introductions to the crucial and revolutionary ideas at the foundations of modern physics, including topics like quantum mechanics, special relativity, cosmology, general relativity, and black holes.

These courses include mandatory independent work, as you will be expected to prepare for each session with background readings, sample problems, and watching recorded lectures- on top of some simple hands-on tasks to be completed at home. During live sessions, however, with instructor-led content and lots of time for questions, ISSYP encourages group work during breakout rooms and group projects.

ISSYP additionally hosts what they call “Keynote Sessions”, in which Perimeter Institute researchers discuss their work and provide their perspectives and opinions of the mysteries facing 21st-century theoretical physicists. These sessions leave lots of time for questions and are a unique aspect that Perimeter Institute adds to the program. The insight you will gain from the opportunity to ask modern theoretical physicists your questions will add to your future research and perhaps shape your future career path.


2. You will give your profile a boost (ISSYP is selective and prestigious)

Each year ISSYP accepts 30-40 students, half of which will hail from Canada while the other half will be international. Each year there is a waitlist, and it is impossible to defer your acceptance into the program. Acceptance is based on your overall application package, though the ISSYP website states that they are looking for well-rounded individuals with extensive life experience, particularly in the areas of theoretical physics and mathematics. Acceptance into ISSYP is an impressive feat and attending a prestigious program like it will enhance any university application or resume. The program also goes beyond traditional classroom learning by incorporating interactive workshops, simulations, and experiments. These activities provide students with hands-on experiences that bring theoretical concepts to life and foster a deeper appreciation for the subject.


3. You will learn in a collaborative environment

ISSYP creates an online community that will place you amongst other high school students interested in pursuing physics at a university level. Through group work during live sessions and peer bonding outside of classes, you will make connections with other young adults who will study in the same field as you.

This type of networking is crucial once in a university environment and is an important skill to learn. ISSYP’s website claims that past participants indicate that meeting other future theoretical physicists is a valuable part of ISSYP. The program also includes breaks from scientific content for students to get to know one another and build relationships that last beyond the program dates.


4. You will practice presentation and communication skills

Along with peer communication, ISSYP provides training in scientific communication; including how to effectively present complex ideas to diverse audiences. You will learn how to articulate your thoughts, ask probing questions, and communicate scientific concepts clearly and engagingly. Public speaking, even across a screen, is a skill set that you will benefit from immensely. The ability to present and communicate your research effectively will become vital to both future academic and professional endeavors.


5. You will get a lot of career insights

Another unique aspect of ISSYP is its emphasis on students gaining insight into potential careers as physicists. ISSYP alumni and researchers at different career points will answer questions about the university, research careers, and “Life as a Physicist”. These sorts of candid and open discussions are not common among summer programs. They provide an extra investment into your future, as you will be able to get a sneak peek into a future career option.


6. You will work and build relationships with expert mentors

ISSYP offers students with valuable guidance and mentorship from experienced physicists and researchers in the field of theoretical physics. As a member, you will be advised on academic and career paths, gain insight into the scientific community, and develop a deeper understanding of the possibilities available if you choose to pursue a career in theoretical physics.


Cons:

1. You won’t get a taste of college life

This program is fully virtual, and while that means a lot of flexibility, the downside is that you won’t get an on-campus experience.


2. You will be limited to theoretical physics

If you are looking for a program that covers a variety of topics, then this may not be the best fit for you. This is a great program for theoretical physics.


Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are passionate about a specific field and are interested in doing in-depth research with a top PhD as your mentor, then you could consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students, founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 2100 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.



Mandy Brenner is a current junior at Harvard University. She is concentrating in History and Literature and loves to read and write in her free time.

Image source: Perimeter Institute logo


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